Premiership playoff-chasing Sale have been deal a double off-field blow – they are reportedly being sued by Gloucester over the Rohan Janse van Rensburg contractual debacle while plans for a new stadium have been hampered after thousands of people signed a petition against the plan. 

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The Sharks were handed a suspended five-point deduction at an RFU disciplinary hearing in April that investigated how South African van Rensburg wound up signing a three-year contract for Sale in January 2018 after originally inking a similar length deal with Gloucester just three months earlier. 

The RFU fined van Rensburg £32,500 and issued a two-week ban, while Sale were given a £20,000 fine and handed the points deduction that has been suspended for two seasons. The disciplinary hearing’s written verdict laid bare the tensions between both clubs and it has now emerged that Gloucester are suing for damages, the Telegraph claiming they are chasing around £400,000 in compensation.

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Meanwhile, the company behind Sale’s tentative move back to their hometown in the Greater Manchester area were forced to issue a statement just a week after unveiling ambitious plans to turn Crossford Bridge playing fields into a modern sports complex that would including housing the Sharks at a new stadium. 

More than 3,000 signatures have been received by a change.org petition voicing concerns over the project. Speaking in the Manchester Evening News, petition organiser Catherine Perrin said: “The negative impact of these plans would be immense, not only to the people who use it but to the wildlife, environment and surrounding area.

“Generations of my family and I have grown up and lived in the Crossford Bridge area and it would be nothing short of heartbreaking to see such a place disappear.”

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Edouard Whyte, who lives next door to the site, added: “We only received a letter informing us of the consultation on the day the Sale Sharks’ media coverage started to appear telling the UK they were ‘coming home’.

“This resulted in a lot of unrest and worry for those of us who live nearby. I know that all of the concerns I have voiced are shared by my neighbours and others living near us. We have rallied together over the past few days but we are all feeling very uneasy about what’s to come.”

The level of antipathy towards the project forced Crossford Futures to issue a statement in an attempt to allay growing fears. It read: “We can confirm that all parties have now entered dialogue around the vision for the potential development of Crossford Bridge and intend to hold preliminary discussions as part of a more detailed consultation which will take place in the coming weeks.

“Our shared priority is ensuring that all involved, including the clubs, local residents and the wider community benefit from any proposals for the site.

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“We would like to reiterate that no solutions will be put forward in the second phase of consultation in the autumn that do not meet with approval from all of the parties involved, especially Sale United FC, Sale Harriers Manchester and Old Atrinchamians FC.

“Local residents and all the children who enjoy the current facilities will then have an opportunity to provide significant feedback as part of that second phase of consultation.”

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